Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Youth Wing leader and businessman, Lesang Magang has this week officially announced his decision to contest for the party’s prestigious position as Secretary General, at the party’s next elective congress billed for July 2021.
Magang told WeekendPost this week after lobbying from democrats and also as a result of his own reflection, he has offered himself to serve in the position.
The former Youth Wing leader said, out of respect, he has also reached out to President Mokgweetsi Masisi, to inform him of his decision.
“He is the party leader. And out of respect and also since we share the philosophy of transforming the country and party, I have sought his audience. I will not go into much detail on this save to say I have massive respect for his desire not to divide the party by engaging in formation of lobbyists though some people had tried to misrepresent him on this score,” Magang told WeekendPost.
“I had served the party really well in my youth and I thought it’s time to come back. All that experience in business and politics is now required by the country and party. We live in critical times whereas the BDP we need to transform to survive. And I am a transformational leader. I would want to be part of leading the transformation of this party alongside a President who has clearly voiced his desire for transformation or party and country.”
Unlike the previous congress where the chairmanship defined the congress, the position as Secretary General will be the most sought after position. Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane is unlikely to be challenged for the Chairman position.
However, Mpho Balopi, who is the incumbent Secretary General has not attracted the same luck, as a number of democrats intends to challenge him for the position.
Magang, who is the son of former cabinet minister, David Magang, indicated that the 2021 congress, the first since 2017, would be critical in the sense that the soul and future of the party may be at stake.
“It will mark a turning point for the party in that the leadership so elected will be responsible for preparing us immediately for the 2024 general election. Before then even, the leadership elected will have to rebuild structures, fix Bulela Ditswe and foster trust and integrity in our primary election and internal systems. In short, we will need to rebuild the confidence of our members in our systems so as to survive 2024 and extend our rule.”
Having served in the party structures before — including the Central Committee during the presidency of Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae — Magang believes such experience will come handy in helping the party to consolidate its power.
“I know the heart and soul of the party like the back of my hand. I know how we used to do things yet am equipped with how things ought to happen today and for the future,” he said.
“I have seen the party grow, fall and rise again. And all that experience I can use to help President Masisi transform the party to position it for the future as he has rightly pledged to do. For instance, when I speak of building structures it’s something I’ve done before- we’ve crisscrossed the country before being hosted by Democrats to help mobilize and build structures and we made it mad fun.”
Despite not participating in the 2013 and 2018 party primaries after an unsuccessful bid in 2008, Magang contend that he has always been serving the party behind the scenes.
He said it is during this time that he had the luxury of reflecting and also preparing for the next political involvement within the party.
“When I was not leading at the front I was an active follower that assisted in the campaigns of others. For instance, I served in the BDP Communications and International Relations Committee before and was also a manifesto champion for the party in the run up to the 2019 general election,” he argued.
“I would say then that spending time being led and not being on the front leading has shaped my thinking. I have learnt to listen more, I have learnt to follow. And they say the best lessons in leadership include learning to follow.”
ON IMPLEMENTATION OF BDP MANIFESTO
With the party’s victory in the 2019 general election partly on the basis of its pledges in the manifesto, BDP face the tough task of delivering its promises, which include among others reviewing the country’s constitution and Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE).
“The party must govern. We have a very good system in place where we keep a large professional civil service but the BDP is held accountable every five years. So we need the party to hold government accountable,” he said.
“Through the office of the Secretary General, we need to continuously have the party position being made clear such that our pledges are always top of mind.”
Magang argued that the party should also support government programmes which in essence are party programmes.
“The party must proudly use its structures to promote uptake of government programmes in order for people to benefit. Many of our people could do with benefiting from government programmes,” he said.
“Without being unfair or side-lining the opposition, we must have people in our structures and our members being assisted to enrol in government programmes. Mananeo a puso a tshwanetse a bonelwa mo madomkrageng mme re sa dire botsotsi bope fela, re rotloetsa re bo re rutuntsha botlhe mo pontsheng.”
Magang believes the constitutional review forms key components of BDP’s transformation pledge and said it is necessary for the party to ensure that it happens.
“It is absolutely critical. Our constitution has served as well, but we must review it in order to take the next giant leap for our development and democracy. I am proud that this is a key BDP pledge and one we intend to make happen.”
REBUILDING THE PARTY
BDP suffered two splits in the last 10 years, a development which has seen the party losing its status as invincible, and many observers believes the party could soon go past its glory days.
“The BDP of our forefathers was more than just a political party. It was an organization of people who were friends from all over our country, people who missed getting together again in song and conferences. It was as much a party as it was a brotherhood/sisterhood in which everyone felt they were welcome and had a place,” he said.
“This mentality penetrated even to our party structures. Structures existed and were strong because there was fellowship, and they were also adequately monitored and engaged. The structures held their own activities regularly. In so many places, our structures ran activities that became entertainment platforms for people to look forward to. We need to urgently get back to building structures that are not only visible before congress or primary elections.
“This way, we will not easily split. The spirit of being democrats would prevail and we all would also know that one needs not have power at all costs.
“We have problems because sometimes people feel the need to win at all costs that they resort to even cheating to win- and some have previously even been facilitated by leadership to cheat. Bulela ditswe is a prime example. This cannot be fair and only leads to infighting.”
The United Nation’s UNiTE campaign has marked the beginning of 16 days of activism against Gender-based Violence which will end in December 10 2020, under the global theme, “Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”
The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign), managed by UN Women — is a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world.
The UN Women’s generation equality campaign emphasises the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.
Furthermore, the UN Secretary General’s report maintains that this year is like no other. Even before Covid-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions.
Globally, according to United Nations, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year.
Meanwhile, less than 40 percent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.
Evidently they suggest that as countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified- in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold.
“In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abused, forced marriage, and harassment,” said the UN.
According to the UN, in April 2020 as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 member states responded with their strong statement of commitment.
“In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to Covid-19. Yet, much more is needed,” said the report.
Moreover, they submit that as today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action.
“It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis,” contended the UN report.
For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit.
According to Dubravka Šimonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women, there is urgent need to end pandemic of femicide and violence against women.
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she emphasizes that as the world grapples with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on women, a pandemic of femicide and gender-based violence against womenis taking the livesof women and girls everywhere.
Therefore, she is calling on all States and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women, and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or femicide watches/observatories on violence against women.
These bodies should be mandated to 1) collect comparable and disaggregated data on femicide or gender-related killings of women; 2) conduct an analysis of femicide cases to determine shortcomings, and recommend measures for the prevention of such cases, and 3) ensure that femicide victims are not forgotten by holding days of remembrance.
“Data this mandate has collected since 2015 through my Femicide Watch initiative corroborates the data available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and indicates that among the victims of all intentional killings involving intimate partners, more than 80% of victims are women. Many of these femicides are preventable. Since 2015, a growing number of States have either established femicide watches or observatories, and in an increasing number of countries, it is the independent human rights institutions, civil society organizations, women’s groups and/or academic institutions that have established femicide watches or observatories,” she argued.
GBV in Botswana
UNFDP (United Nations Population Fund) Botswana cites that, locally over 67 percent of women have experienced abuse, which is over double the global average.
“Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence and normalization. Victims of violence, the majority of which are women and girls, can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death,” indicated UNFDP
In his 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered on Monday 9th November at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), President Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the snowballing of GBV incidences, saying, they have prioritized drafting of a Sexual Offenders Bill to be tabled during the sitting of the 12th Parliament.
“The Bill will establish a Sex Offenders’ Registry to record and publicise names and particulars of all persons convicted of sexual offences. To date twelve districts have set up the District Gender Committees in Chobe, Kweneng, Kgatleng, Kgalagadi, Maun, Serowe, Selibe-Phikwe, North East, Bobirwa Sub District, Mabutsane Sub District, Goodhope Sub District as well as Mahalapye Sub District. These committees will promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and also address gender based violence,” Masisi said.
The President highlighted that the Botswana Police Service, which has been dealing a lot with GBV cases has taken swift action and introduced a Toll-Free number for reports on gender based violence. He further indicated that the Police will establish a Gender and Child Protection Unit
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.